Seabird Island News - Vol. 5 - 23 June 2023

Courting Black Guillemots
Black Guillemots are known for their bright red mouths—which are especially striking as they open up wide to call to one another during courtship! Photo: Matinicus Rock

It was a gully washer last weekend! Islanders are finding new chicks every day, but cool, wet weather and high winds yielded some unfortunate results as some nests washed away during the weekend storms. Luckily, the sun began to shine on Monday and temperatures rose throughout the week. Island Christmas and International Guillemot Appreciation Day are just around the corner. We can’t wait to see how the islanders celebrate these favorite holidays!

Uninvited Guests

Field researchers know to anticipate visits from the usual predators. Peregrine Falcons have put Outer Green Island terns in a tizzy throughout the week and a mink is still on the loose on Pond Island. Strattoneers had an array of uninvited visitors, including a night heron that has made repeated appearances on the island. Is it possible that Jenny Island’s ‘22 night heron has taken a liking to Island Supervisor, Ben, and followed him to Stratton? As the great Carole King wrote, “Where you lead, I will follow…”

A more unexpected Stratton Island guest was a quadcopter drone. The unsolicited visitor hung around, despite being shoo-ed away by the team. It was an unsettling experience for the people and the birds alike, but fortunately no terns were harmed during the drone’s visit.


During a feeding study, one StrattonIslander witnessed some interesting Common Tern behavior. A bird initially seen incubating a 1 egg nest proceeded to get up and walk over to a nearby unattended nest with two eggs and incubate those eggs for the next two hours. During that time, the egg in the original nest hatched! The mystifying tern parent then walked back to the original nest to tend to the newly emerged chick and move shell fragments away - before returning to incubate the two-egg nest for the remainder of the observation session!? This was peculiar behavior to witness. Did this tern lay eggs in two places? Are these coparenting behaviors? Life on a seabird colony is never boring...

On average, the weight of Common and Arctic Terns appears to be down in comparison to previous years. The early speculation is that prey may have been hard to come by during migration and the early nesting season, possibly resulting in smaller clutch sizes as previously reported. Observation throughout the summer will help piece this puzzle together, but right now there appears to be slim pickings for ideal forage fish.

Stratton Island Common Tern with Mystery Meal
A mystery meal in the beak of a Common Tern. Any guesses as to what it could be? Photo: Stratton Island

Confused puffins in the Guillemot burrow
Hmmm... This doesn't look right. Are you sure this is the right burrow?!? Photo:

A curious puffin pair stumbled into the on-camera Guillemot Burrow this week, a surprising sight in the narrow cavity that is typically inhabited by our guillie pair. The puffins poked around (luckily avoiding the three eggs in the burrow!) and went on their way—it’s likely that they were just doing a little bit of house hunting, in search of a place of their own!

And speaking of home-- puffling Duryea seems right at home in the Puffin Burrow. "Dur" has been enjoying impressively large deliveries of Sand Lance and herring brought by Willie and Millie. The beloved on-camera puffin pair has also been paying close attention to their chick’s hygiene, spending lots of time preening the little one. Duryea is growing nicely, and has already been wing flapping and moving around the burrow.

Duryea athe puffling and Mom Millie in puffin burrow
Duryea seems to grow bigger (and fluffier) by the day! Photo:

The Loafing Ledge and Boulder Berm cams have seen excellent puffin activity as of late. Be sure to tune in this week to see the puffins, razorbills, and friends as they socialize and soak up the summer solstice sun!

Alcid Update

Seal Island and Eastern Egg Rock found their first black guillemot chicks this week! Seeing as the summer solstice occurred this past Wednesday, it’s only fitting that the start of the season saw new hatchlings.

Many razorbill chicks were also found and measured on Seal Island during productivity checks this week. After a tough couple of years for the razorbills, the island team is happy to report steady growth for the chicks that they’ve grubbed thus far.

Outer Green Island caught a rare glimpse of a puffin hanging around near their tern-filled island—the team has their fingers crossed for more puffin sightings, and maybe a razorbill, too!

Island Highlights

Who is observing who?
Sometimes we wonder… who's observing who? Photo: Outer Green Island
Spotted Sandpiper chick
This Spotted Sandpiper chick was reunited with its father before enjoying a family foraging adventure on Pond Island. P Photo: Pond Island NWR

For additional news, please visit the Seabird Island News index page.

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